TN bill would clarify bullying policies across districts - WSMV Channel 4

TN bill would clarify bullying policies across districts

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Bullying has been a huge problem for kids all across the country and in Tennessee some teens have even committed suicide.

Lawmakers say it's time for school districts to get on the same page when it comes to creating bullying rules. Their plan is called the Dignity for all Students Act, and it's supposed to make sure that what constitutes bullying is clearly defined.

It could also better help some people who are often the big targets for bullies.

Kaelynn Mooningham has hopes and dreams for her son, Ethan, including being able to go to school in a safe environment.

Not only did she face bullying in school, but her friend, Jacob Rogers, committed suicide in December 2011 after he was the target of bullies for his sexuality.

"It was pretty much like he wasn't going to school to go to school. It was like he was going to school to be harassed. It was no longer a safe place anymore, and then people quit caring," Mooningham said.

Mooningham has been trying ever since to convince the school board to add sexual orientation to Cheatham County's bullying policy.

It highlights the fact that schools in Tennessee may have bullying policies in place, but they vary from district to district.

"What's one person's bullying is not someone else's, and I just don't think that's in our best interests," said State Sen. Jim Kyle, D-Memphis.

Kyle is proposing a bill that would strengthen current bullying policies by better defining factors that are often the focus of bullying schools. It includes race, religion, disabilities and sexual orientation.

The idea is to give clear guidance to teachers and administrators about what constitutes bullying.

"I think what's in our best interests is we give our school administrators some direction and try to help our students out," Kyle said.

It's an issue that is close to Mooningham's heart. She's already lost one friend to bullying, and she wants to make sure no one else has to go through the same thing.

"I'm glad I can try to make it a better environment for my children," she said.

The proposal would also require school districts to review their bullying procedures every three years and make changes as necessary.

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